Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
The study of the Bible is indeed a labor of love. Some form of the word "love" appears over 800 times in over 700 verses. All of the Old Testament writers use the word, with the exception of four of the Minor Prophets, and every New Testament author writes with "love" in multiple passages.
The first time "love" appears in the New Testament is speaks of the love God the Father has for God the Son at His baptism. The last time "love" is mentioned in the Bible it is used negatively, to describe all the lost and condemned people of all time who "loved" the wrong things and failed to trust in God and the gospel. But if we can choose only one verse to talk about love, then we must use this one:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
-- John 3:16, ESV
Musicians have tried to define love with song titles like "Love is a Four Letter Word" and "Love is a Five Letter Word." Actually, the best word for love is a five-letter word in the Greek language of the New Testament: agape.
Agape is never selfish and not contingent on what the recipient can do for the giver (unlike "eros"). Agape is a choice to give love to another person, willingly, totally, unconditionally, selflessly (unlike "phileo"). Agape is the most beautiful and bountiful way ever recorded to define love, at least love as it pertains to God and those who are the children of God. "For God so loved ... "
With agape, love, as His defining motive, God took action to demonstrate His love to the multicultural, multiethnic, multifaceted people of the world He created. You see, agape love always demonstrates itself in sacrifice. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son ... "
If you are a parent or the child of a parent (I think that's everybody), consider the sacrifice it takes to raise a child. It is one thing to love your child enough to give them a good life. Could you love someone enough to give up your child to a cruel, merciless, painful, death, even though and especially when the person you give your child to die for is absolutely unworthy?
God gave a gift He did not have to give. God is completely sufficient in His triunity with Himself, His Son, and His Spirit to enjoy fellowship with Himself as He lords over all creation, and He did not need to redeem any fallen human beings to enjoy His infinite life. "His only Son" refers to a gift like no other, a person unparalleled, fully human and fully divine, sinless, spotless, infinitely superior in every way to everybody else, sent to live a life of poverty, anonymity, incredulity, injustice, persecution, and martyrdom.
God defined love on His divine terms then demonstrated it with the gift of Christ upon the cross. Now, He deserves and demands this kind of love in return.
If you do not love God, unconditionally and unreservedly, then you cannot be a recipient of His unconditional, unreserved salvation and eternal life. You cannot come to Christ because He offers absolution, or a reservation in Heaven, and certainly not because you think He will guarantee health and wealth in this life on earth. You must come to Him because you love Him, you are willing to serve Him, you give your life and all that you have to Him, and you place Him above all other loves in your life. This love is defined, demonstrated, and demanded by a holy, holy, holy God. From where does such love come?
If you are a Christian, it is because God loved you and chose you even before He created the world. For you, God defined and demonstrated what love really is in the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And you have been able to love, believe, and repent, because the very thing that God demands, God Himself delivers. Yes, Christian, God put love in your hearts so that you would love Him, believe in Him, and enjoy Him forever in everlasting life. This is love, and being in a loving, saving, personal, and covenant relationship with God is what life is all about.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]